Ghana: Life and environment sacrificed for gold? Journalists visit Prestea-Huni Valley District

As part of the ongoing efforts to generate more interest among journalists in reporting on environmental issues, the Ghana Country Water Partnership (CWP-Ghana) has supported some members of the Federation of Environmental Journalists (FEJ) of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) to undertake a four day field trip. This trip was organised to the Prestea-Huni Valley District in the Western Region to build the students’ capacity in Environmental Reporting. The purpose of the Field trip was to train the students’ practically on on-field data gathering and reporting methodologies. The trip was from 06th to 09th January, 2016.  There were 21 participants. Leading the team was Mr Frederick Asiamah, an environmental journalist and expert from the Ghana WatSan Journalists Network (GWJN).

As part of the trip, the students had the opportunity to visit mining sites, crude refuse damping sites and also see and experience for themselves the effects of mining on the lives of the people. They also had the opportunity to interact with some key stakeholders in the mining area such as community members of the Prestea township, the leaders of the Concerned Citizens of Prestea Association (CCPA), the Prestea-Huni Valley District Assembly (PHDA), the Traditional Council of the Himan Traditional Area, a member of the Small Scale Miners Association and the Executive Secretary of the Centre for Environmental Impact Assessment.

During the interactions, the stakeholders gave brief insights into the roles they play in the mining and environmental sectors and outlined the limitations they face in executing their various duties effectively. The students asked questions based on what they had heard and seen around the town. They also went ahead to interview people in order to solicit their views on the identified issues. Some of the key issues which came out of interviews were;

The belief among stakeholders in Prestea is that their lives including livelihood, health, wellbeing, environment and homes are being sacrificed for gold by the nation.

They also added that when the company, in the course of their operations, destroys a stream or water body and replace it with a borehole, they haven’t really done anything because they have robbed the people of all the benefits they were getting form the water bodies.

They spoke of the fact that displaced communities do not just lose their homes but also their livelihoods, history and heritage.

Further, the students, led by the facilitator, also engaged in some classroom discussions. He took them through aspects of story development and presentation. In groups of fours and fives, they were tasked to develop stories from the information gathered on the field. They came out with scripts for Television, Radio, Print and Online media. The groups made presentations on their assignments before all participants on the third day. In all, their responses were very well drafted and interactive. 

Moving forward, participants were tasked to improve on their group work as well as develop individual ones. These stories will be used to produce a newsletter. The facilitator also encouraged members to build blogs and develop skills which will make them multi-dimensional in the media world.